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Zapallo Macre Squash
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Zapallo Macre squash can grow to be very large in size, ranging 38-60 centimeters in diameter, and has an elongated, oval to round shape with a straight, dark green and striped stem. The firm rind is mostly dark green, but some squashes may have a lighter, white-grey tone, and the surface can be smooth or wrinkled, hard, and thick. Underneath the rind, the flesh is aqueous, dense, and a vibrant yellow-orange with a hollow center filled with stringy and spongy, fibrous flesh and cream-colored seeds. When cooked, Zapallo Macre squash develops a soft and creamy texture with a mild, subtly sweet flavor.
Zapallo Macre squash is available year-round.
Zapallo Macre, botanically classified as Cucurbita maxima, are edible fruits that can grow to enormous sizes and are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. Native to South America and sold daily in local markets, especially in Peru, there are three main varieties of zapallo squash, including the crespo, macre, and lacio. Given these names by vendors to differentiate between the different varieties in the market, Zapallo Macre squash is the most expensive of the three as it has the creamiest and most desirable consistency when cooked. Zapallo Macre squash is also favored for its thickening abilities and is predominately used in soups and stews in South America.
Zapallo Macre squash contains some vitamin A, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Zapallo Macre squash is best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, baking, steaming, and boiling. The squash develops a soft and creamy texture that can thicken soups, stews, and rice dishes. In Peru, Zapallo Macre squash is used in a version of arroz con pato, or duck with spiced rice, and in picarones, which are fritters made out of squash and dough and deep fried. It is also commonly stuffed in ravioli, used as a thickener in broths, mashed as a side dish, or cubed and roasted with other vegetables to serve with cooked meats. In addition to the flesh, the seeds can be roasted, often consumed as a snack, and have a flavor similar to roasted peanuts. Zapallo Macre squash pairs well with onions, garlic, ginger, meats such as beef, poultry, and lamb, shrimp, fish, walnuts, parsley, potatoes, and cheese. The squash will keep 4-6 weeks when stored whole in a cool, dry, and dark place. When sliced, Zapallo Macre squash will keep 2-5 days wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.
In Peru, Zapallo Macre squash is a staple ingredient in everyday cooking as it is affordable and sold in large slices in the market. Used for decades since pre-Hispanic times, soups have become an essential Peruvian dish to warm the body during cold nights and during the winter months. In some villages, hot stones are placed in pots to heat the soup, and Zapallo Macre squash is a common ingredient to thicken the consistency. In addition to soups, Zapallo Macre is well-known in the Peruvian dish locro de zapallo, which is a stew-like dish made of squash, peppers, huacatay, milk, cheese, and potatoes and served with rice, steak, or a fried egg.
Zapallo Macre squash is believed to be native to South America and has been growing wild since ancient times. Today the squash is cultivated on a small scale for sale in fresh, local markets in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. It is also believed versions of this squash were introduced to parts of Asia, Europe, and North America via explorers and trade routes.
Recipes that include Zapallo Macre Squash. One is easiest, three is harder.